Sunday, August 29, 2010
Saturday August 28th marked the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a Dream" speech. If Fox News host Glenn Beck is to be believed, it was entirely by accident that he chose this day to hold his "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Invited guests included Sarah Palin and a fundamentalist Christian niece of MLK. At the last minute, Rev. Al Sharpton's foundation decided to hold a rally at a Washington D.C. high school, followed by a march to the MLK memorial which is located on the backside of the Lincoln memorial. They called the event "Reclaim the Dream".
Jotman was there.
Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally
Left: I accidentally stepped on a woman's foot and she chirped back, "Don't tread on me!" The revolutionary slogan seems to be the unofficial motto of the Tea Party, yellow and black its colors.
extensively, this was his first Sarah Palin sighting.
I only caught a few lines of Glenn Beck's speech: "government of the people, by the people...." Beck was channeling Lincoln.
It struck me that I was having the same visceral negative reaction to hearing Glenn Beck as I had had to a recent Obama speech. Both men borrow heavily from the greats of American rhetoric: Perhaps Obama's specialty, imitating style but neglecting the underlying principles, is the lesser offense. I find Beck's penchant for distorting ideas and facts troubling.
This distinction aside, some Democrats are complaining that Glenn Beck is making a mockery of the "dream speech anniversary". But it seems to me that the first to exploit Martin Luther King's legacy was the senator from Illinois. In 2008 Obama appropriated King's rhetoric in an effort to suggest meaningful change was afoot, when he was just hawking the usual corporatist agenda.
Against this backdrop, Palin comes across as authentic to some (even if she doesn't make any sense to most of us).
who paid for the rally?)
Looking closely at his sign, I don't have any trouble with the hammer and sickle in so far as it evokes comparisons between the US and the former Soviet Union: Afghanistan, surveillance, high incarceration rate, secrecy, militarism, empire, assassination programs, incumbents almost always winning at election time, etc. Not only has Obama failed to stand up to such ominous trends, he has abetted some of them.
Bellow: Spotted on a T-shirt: "America is good." Might these three words define the root of this political movement's psychosis?
If you try to argue this point you're liable to be dismissed as "unpatriotic" or "anti-American". But if you let such a declaration go unchallenged, it becomes hard to persuade Americans that anything could be improved. They will ask: how could our industrial farms, our health care providers, our leaders, our military, our news media, our corporations, do wrong? After all, America is good.
Al Sharpton's "Reclaim the Dream" march
A frequently cited estimate of attendance at the Sharpton rally was 3,000. Al Sharpton, citing the figure in a speech, said "there were three or four times" that number. I wasn't at the original site of the Sharpton rally (prior to the march to the the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial) so I can't say. But I followed the march route to the end of the MLK memorial. I would estimate that about 3,000 completed the march, and gathered to hear more speeches behind the high wall of the construction site that is the MLK memorial. I would estimate that the size of the Beck rally had been at least 30 or 40 times larger than the Sharpton march.
Hurricane Katrina. Two thousand people, many lacking access to transportation out of the city, lost their lives in the aftermath of the storm. The back of this marcher's shirt reads, "I will not forget."
Shortly after taking this photo, I came across some people assisting a marcher who might have come down with mild heat stroke.
Nearby I saw a tea-partier wearing a t-shirt with Obama's likeness on it -- under the portrait was the word "Disaster". Obama signs or t-shirts were surprisingly rare among the ranks of the Sharpton marchers. It was by now clear that the first African American president had realized the dream for himself, but enough time has passed since the inauguration for doubts to grow about the president's commitment to the bigger dream.
The ratio of whites at the Sharpton march (perhaps 1:5) far exceeded the ratio of African Americans at the Glenn Beck rally (fewer than 1:50).
Although Glenn Beck's rally was far bigger, Sharpton's march did not feel so much like a spectacle "of the media, by the media, for the media..." Come to think of it, that might explain the smiles.
Glenn Beck rally protests
Same place, 47 years ago...
Posted by Jotman on Sunday, August 29, 2010